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Zoom Inventors and Inventions
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Inventors from Germany
A Sampling of German Inventors and Inventions

BAKELITE
Bakelite (also called catalin) is a plastic, a dense synthetic polymer (a phenolic resin) that was used to make jewelry, game pieces, engine parts, radio boxes, switches, and many, many other objects. Bakelite was the first industrial thermoset plastic (a material that does not change its shape after being mixed and heated). Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde, which are mixed, heated, and then either molded or extruded into the desired shape.

Bakelite was patented in 1907 by the Belgian-born American chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland (November 14, 1863 - February 23, 1944). The Nobel Prize winning German chemist Adolf von Baeyer had experimented with this material in 1872, but did not complete its development or see its potential.

Baekeland operated the General Bakelite Company from 1911 to 1939 (in Perth Amboy, N.J., USA), and produced up to about 200,000 tons of Bakelite annually. Bakelite replaced the very flammable celluloid plastic that had been so popular. The bracelet above is made of "butterscotch" bakelite.

BEHAIM, MARTIN
Martin Behaim (1459-1537) was a German mapmaker, navigator, and merchant. Behaim made the earliest globe, called the "Nürnberg Terrestrial Globe". It was made during the years 1490-1492; the painter Georg Glockendon helped in the project. Behaim had previously sailed to Portugal as a merchant (in 1480). He had advised King John II on matters concerning navigation. He accompanied the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cam (Cão) on a 1485-1486 voyage to the coast of West Africa; during this trip, the mouth of the Congo River was discovered. After returning to Nürnberg in 1490, Behaim began construction of his globe (which was very inaccurate as compared to other maps from that time, even in the areas in which Behaim had sailed). It was once thought that Behaim's maps might have influenced Columbus and Magellan; this is now discounted. Behaim may have also developed an astrolabe. Behaim's globe is now in the German National Museum in Nürnberg.
BICYCLE
The earliest bicycle was a wooden scooter-like contraption called a celerifere; it was invented about 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. In 1816, Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun, of Germany, invented a model with a steering bar attached to the front wheel, which he called a Draisienne. It has two wheels (of the same size), and the rider sat between the two wheels, but there were no pedals; to move, you had to propel the bicycle forward using your feet (a bit like a scooter). He exhibited his bicycle in Paris on April 6, 1818.

For a bicycle diagram printout to label, click here.

For more information on the invention of the bicycle, click here.

Levi StraussBLUE JEANS
Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was an entrepreneur who invented and marketed blue jeans. Trained as a tailor in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Germany, Strauss went to San Francisco, USA from New York in 1853. Strauss sold dry goods, including tents and linens to the 49ers (the people who came to the California gold rush, which began in 1849). In 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, patented the idea (devised by Davis) of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants. Early levis, called "waist overalls," came in a brown canvas duck fabric and a heavy blue denim fabric. The duck fabric pants were not very successful, so were dropped early on. His business became extremely successful (and still is), revolutionizing the apparel industry.
BUNSEN BURNER
The laboratory Bunsen burner was invented by Robert Wilhelm Bunsen in 1855. Bunsen (1811-1899) was a German chemist and teacher. He invented the Bunsen burner for his research in isolating chemical substances - it has a high-intensity, non-luminous flame that does not interfere with the colored flame emitted by chemicals being tested.

For more information on Bunsen, click here.

CONTACT LENSES
Contact lenses are tiny removable lenses that are worn in contact with the eye (they rest directly on the cornea of the eye). Like glasses, they improve the wearer's vision. This type of lens was envisioned (but not actually made) by Leonardo da Vinci (around 1508) and later by René Descartes (around 1636-1637).

Contact lenses were invented and made in 1887 by the German physiologist Adolf Eugen Fick (1829-1901). He first fitted animals with the lenses, and later made them for people. These lenses were made from heavy brown glass and were 18-21mm in diameter. The lenses were improved by August Muller in 1889; he made lenses that corrected myopia (nearsightedness).

Plastic contact lenses were first made by the California optician Kevin Tuohy in 1948. Soft contact lenses (hydrophilic lenses) and gas-permeable lenses (which let oxygen pass through the lens and to the cornea) were invented in the 1970s.

FROEBEL, WILHELM A.
Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (also written Fröbel) (1782-1852) was a German educator and educational reformer who invented the kindergarten (which means "garden of children"). He opened the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg (near Keilhau) in 1837. Froebel founded a kindergarten training school at Liebenstein, Germany in 1849. After some conflicts and mistaken charges of treason, the German government banned the establishment of kindergartens in 1851. In 1860, the government repealed the ban, and kindergartens re-opened (unfortunately, this was after Froebel's death). Froebel's kindergartens included pleasant surroundings, self-motivated activity, play, music, and the physical training of the child.
GEIGER COUNTER
The Geiger counter (sometimes called the Geiger-Muller counter) is a device that detects ionizing radioactivity (including gamma rays and X-rays) - it counts the radioactive particle that pass through the device. The German nuclear physicist Hans Wilhelm Geiger (Sept. 30, 1882- Sept. 24, 1945) developed the device from 1908-12. At that time, Geiger was an assistant to the British physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937). [Geiger's work helped Rutherford discover that radioactive elements can transform into other elements and that atoms have a nucleus]. In 1928, the Geiger counter was improved by the German physicist E. Walther Muller.
GLOBE
Martin Behaim (1459-1537) was a German mapmaker, navigator, and merchant who made the earliest globe, called the "Nürnberg Terrestrial Globe". It was made during the years 1490-1492; the painter Georg Glockendon helped in the project. Behaim had previously sailed to Portugal as a merchant (in 1480). He had advised King John II on matters concerning navigation. He accompanied the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cam (Cão) on a 1485-1486 voyage to the coast of West Africa; during this trip, the mouth of the Congo River was discovered. After returning to Nürnberg in 1490, Behaim began construction of his globe (which was very inaccurate as compared to other maps from that time, even in the areas in which Behaim had sailed). It was once thought that Behaim's maps might have influenced Columbus and Magellan; this is now discounted. Behaim may have also developed an astrolabe. Behaim's globe is now in the German National Museum in Nürnberg.
GUTENBERG, JOHANNES
Johannes Gutenberg (the 1300's-1468) was a German craftsman, inventor, and printer who invented the first printing press with movable type in 1450. This invention revolutionized printing, making it simpler and more affordable. Gutenberg produced dies (molds) for easily producing individual pieces of metal type that could be made, assembled, and later reused. Gutenberg's new press could print a page every three minutes. This made printed material available to the masses for the first time in history. Religious materials were the majority of the early printed materials. The use of printing presses began the standardization of spelling.
Levi StraussJEANS
Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was an entrepreneur who invented and marketed blue jeans. Trained as a tailor in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Germany, Strauss went to San Francisco, USA from New York in 1853. Strauss sold dry goods, including tents and linens to the 49ers (the people who came to the California gold rush, which began in 1849). In 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, patented the idea (devised by Davis) of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants. Early levis, called "waist overalls," came in a brown canvas duck fabric and a heavy blue denim fabric. The duck fabric pants were not very successful, so were dropped early on. His business became extremely successful (and still is), revolutionizing the apparel industry.
KINDERGARTEN
Kindergarten (which means "garden of children") was developed by Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (also written Fröbel) (1782-1852). Froebel was a German educator and educational reformer who opened the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg (near Keilhau) in 1837. Froebel founded a kindergarten training school at Liebenstein, Germany, in 1849. After some conflicts and mistaken charges of treason, the German government banned the establishment of kindergartens in 1851. In 1860, the government repealed the ban, and kindergartens re-opened (unfortunately, this was after Froebel's death). Froebel's kindergartens included pleasant surroundings, self-motivated activity, play, music, and the physical training of the child.
LIPPERSHEY, HANS
Hans Lippershey (1570-1619) was a German-born Dutch lens maker who demonstrated the first refracting telescope in 1608, made from two lenses; he applied for a patent for this optical refracting telescope (using 2 lenses) in 1608, intending it for use as a military device. A refracting telescope uses two lenses to magnify what is viewed; the large primary lens does most of the magnification.
radioMOTORCYCLE
The earliest motorcycle was a coal-powered, two-cylinder, steam-driven motorcycle that was developed in 1867 by the American inventor Sylvester Howard Roper. A gas-powered motorcycle was invented by the German inventor Gottlieb Daimler in 1885. His mostly wooden motorcycle had iron-banded wheels with wooden spokes. This bone-crunching vehicle was powered by a single-cylinder engine.
ROENTGEN, WILHELM VON
X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen (1845-1923). Roentgen was a German physicist who described this new form of radiation that allowed him to photograph objects that were hidden behind opaque shields. He even photographed part of his own skeleton. X-rays were soon used as an important diagnostic tool in medicine. Roentgen called these waves "X-radiation" because so little was known about them.
Levi StraussSTRAUSS, LEVI
Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was an entrepreneur who invented and marketed blue jeans. Trained as a tailor in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Germany, Strauss went to San Francisco, USA from New York in 1853. Strauss sold dry goods, including tents and linens to the 49ers (the people who came to the California gold rush, which began in 1849). In 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, patented the idea (devised by Davis) of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants. Early levis, called "waist overalls," came in a brown canvas duck fabric and a heavy blue denim fabric. The duck fabric pants were not very successful, so were dropped early on. His business became extremely successful (and still is), revolutionizing the apparel industry.
TELESCOPE
A telescope is a device that lets us view distant objects. Early telescopes used glass lenses and/or mirrors to detect visible light. Some modern telescopes gather images from different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays.

The first refracting telescope was invented by Hans Lippershey in 1608. Lippershey (1570?-1619) was a German-born Dutch lens maker who demonstrated the first refracting telescope in 1608, made from two lenses; he applied for a patent for this optical refracting telescope (using 2 lenses) in 1608, intending it for use as a military device. Newton improved the design of this telescope, and it is now called a Newtonian telescope.

James Gregory (1638-1675), a Scottish mathematician, invented the first reflecting telescope in 1663. He published a description of the reflecting telescope in "Optica Promota," which was published in 1663. He never actually made the telescope, which was to have used a parabolic and an ellipsoidal mirror.

Karl Gothe Jansky (1905-1949) was an American radio engineer who pioneered and developed radio astronomy. In 1932, he detected the first radio waves from a cosmic source - in the central region of the Milky Way Galaxy. Gote Reber (a ham radio operator) made the first true radio telescope (using a 32-foot diameter parabolic dish to focus the radio waves) after reading of Jansky's discoveries.

Galileo Galilei
THERMOMETER

The thermometer was invented by Galileo Galilei in 1593. His thermometer consisted of water in a glass bulb; the water moved up and down the bulb as the temperature changed.

The sealed thermometer was invented in 1641 by the Grand Duke Ferdinand II. He used a glass tube containing alcohol, which freezes well below the freezing point of water (alcohol freezes at -175°F=-115°C). He sealed the tube to exclude the influence of air pressure.

Mercury was later substituted for the alcohol, and then Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736), a German physicist, used mercury plus a chemical solution that kept the mercury from sticking to the tube of the thermometer (in 1714). Fahrenheit also expanded the thermometer's scale (in 1724); on his scale, the temperature of boiling water is 212°F and the freezing point of water is 32°F.


Anders Celsius
Anders Celsius, a Swedish astronomer, invented the Celsius (or Centigrade) scale in 1742, putting the freezing point of water at 0° and the boiling point at 100°.


Lord Kelvin
Lord Kelvin (William Thomson, 1824 - 1907) designed the Kelvin scale, in which 0 K is defined as absolute zero and the size of one degree is the same as the size of one degree Celsius. Water freezes at 273.16 K; water boils at 373.16 K.

VON ROENTGEN, WILHELM
X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen (1845-1923). Roentgen was a German physicist who described this new form of radiation that allowed him to photograph objects that were hidden behind opaque shields. He even photographed part of his own skeleton. X-rays were soon used as an important diagnostic tool in medicine. Roentgen called these waves "X-radiation" because so little was known about them.
X-rayX-RAY
X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen (1845-1923). Roentgen was a German physicist who described this new form of radiation that allowed him to photograph objects that were hidden behind opaque shields. He even photographed part of his own skeleton. X-rays were soon used as an important diagnostic tool in medicine. Roentgen called these waves "X-radiation" because so little was known about them.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada
Guidelines on Writing a Report on an Invention





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